Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Hometown Blues: Getting Back to Normal

I apologize for the lack of posts recently, crazy (wonderful!!!) things have been happening. I will begin posting regularly once a week from now on. 

When I say "going back" I don't mean returning to Argentina, rather I'm talking about going back to the life I had before Argentina. I knew that studying abroad changed you and you would experience reverse culture shock when you got home, but I just didn't expect it to be like... this.

Exciting things like this munchkin! 

I thought that when I came back after studying abroad life would be exactly as it was before I left. For the most part, that is true. Things haven't changed all that much, but I have. It's like I'm looking at everything through different colored glasses now and it's familiar but slightly different.

The biggest challenge by far is dealing with the sense that my life is now boring. In Argentina, to be honest, I didn't feel like it was really all that exciting. Sure hoping a bus to go hike in the mountains for the weekend or hang out on the beach was no big deal. It became so normal that it didn't seem adventurous at the time. Now confined to everyday life of school, work, watching TV it seems like none of that can bring you the same rush as your adventures abroad.

Part of my problem also was that I was home for a good month and a half with no job and no one to spend time with during the day because everyone had jobs or school or their lives to carry on with. Winter breaks have always been rough for me, with the lack of structure and the feeling of isolation from your friends that have become a part of your daily routine.

I found myself in a major funk. I knew that I had friends I could have called to do stuff with. I had places I could have gone to visit if I had tried. In reality, I brought the boredom on myself. That "funk" creates a feeling of hopelessness about everything which prevents you from seeing clearly. Thankfully though I've managed to finally shake it off.

My dog Jazzy helped give me a sense of purpose. 

Going through this odd period after returning home, I think I can see what I did wrong and what would have really helped me readjust without having to feel depressed. So here is my advice to you whenever making any life transition, whether it be returning from travel or graduating school or leaving a job.

  • Wake Up: When you have nothing to do for the day, it's easy to just sleep it all away until the early hours of the afternoon. Even though you can, don't. Force yourself to wake up at reasonable time everyday to help keep you from turning into a potato. 

  • Dress Up: This one sort of falls into faking it till you make it. Getting dressed and doing whatever normal routines you would usually do (make-up, styling your hair, etc.) helps you keep that normalcy also and will make sure that you are ready if the opportunity for an adventure does arise. 

  • Busy Yourself: Find something to do, anything at all. The 6 week or so period that I was at home was such a random amount of time I couldn't really do any work. But don't let that stop you. Find something to do, even if it's just volunteering to walk your neighbors' dog every day at a certain time. Having a purpose will motivate you to do other things. 

  • Plan Adventures: One of the biggest things I learned in Argentina was independence and how little I had explored my own home. Let those things apply still after you get off the plane and check out new things nearby, even if you have to do it solo. 

  • Ask for Help: I think this one is the most important of all. Don't bottle up your feelings because you're embarrassed. Let your friends and family know if you're not quite feeling like yourself. They're good to vent to and will also help get you back into a routine. 

While I was ready for experiencing culture shock going to Argentina, I was not prepared for the hole in my heart leaving would create. The turning point for me was getting a dog and a brand new beautiful niece that both gave me a sense of purpose I had been lacking. But don't wait for some life changing event to knock you out of a weird mood. 

I learned abroad to be independent and adventurous and to constantly challenge myself with things I never thought I could do. I just momentarily forgot all of that when I stepped off the plane. But now I know better for my next trip! 


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